Stratas as Seniors Housing
Condominiums or ‘strata’ as they are called in BC (because BC law is based on the Australian law and retained its terminology) Strata properties have two essential elements:
(1) the division of a property into units (which are individually owned) and common elements (which are collectively owned by the unit owners);
(2) a system of ‘democratic’ governance that allows the owners to manage the property collectively.
We have put the words democratic in quotes, as the complaints of strata members often have to do with how democratic the governance of the strata is, and how much their concerns are being considered and addressed. Successful strata governance requires a careful balancing of the rights and obligations of individual strata unit owners, with the interest of the majority of owners or the strata itself. The issues that arise often involve what the BCLI has called “large scale themes such as protection for minorities, democratic decision-making and accountability. Unlike other jurisdictions, BC’s legislation does not contain offence and penalty provisions in respect of non-compliance with the act, regulations, or the strata corporation’s own bylaws. As we tell those living in strata, strata have been referred to as a “fourth level of government,” with little help available from the other three levels of government. Disgruntled strata owners may use a mediator, arbitrator or expensive judicial review proceedings in the BC Supreme Court.
Civil Resolution Tribunal
The Government of British Columbia is creating the first-ever tribunal in Canada that will offer a full array of online tools to allow strata residents to resolve many common strata disputes outside of court. The Civil Resolution Tribunal is expected to be operational in 2016. The CRT will deal with strata disputes between owners and strata corporations for the following matters:
- non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines;
- unfair actions by the strata corporation or by people owning more than half of the strata lots in a complex;
- uneven, arbitrary or non-enforcement of strata bylaws (such as noise, pets, parking, rentals);
- issues of financial responsibility for repairs and the choice of bids for services;
- irregularities in the conduct of meetings, voting, minutes or other matters;
- interpretation of the legislation, regulations or bylaws; and
- issues regarding the common property.
The tribunal will not decide tribunal matters that affect land, such as:
- ordering the sale of a strata lot;
- court orders respecting rebuilding damaged real property;
- dealing with developers and phased strata plans;
- determining each owners’ per cent share in the strata complex (the “Schedule of Unit Entitlement”).
Strata property law has its own distinctive terminology:
strata plans – are legal survey documents. Strata plans delineate the boundaries of individual units and common elements. They must be deposited in the land title office, and must meet a number of detailed requirements to be accepted for deposit.
Strata lots – individually owned units on the strata plan are called strata lots or units. Each strata lot has its own land title. Common property – parts on a strata plan that are not strata lots are called common property. Common property is an open-ended category, which may include things like building lobbies, elevators, and hallways.
Strata corporation – when a strata plan is deposited in the land title office a ‘strata corporation’ is created. All the owners of strata lots become members of the strata corporation. Major decisions involving the common property must be taken at a strata corporation level. The strata corporation (Annual General Meeting) must meet at least once a year.
Strata council – At each annual general meeting the membership elects a strata council from its members. The strata council manages or oversees the management of day-to-day operations of the strata property.
Leasehold stratas. Leasehold stratas are a strange legal hybrid of tenancy and condominium law. In a leasehold strata, the land is subject to a ground lease. The occupants of each strata lot are tenants. The landlord of a leasehold strata must be a legislatively identified public authority. The list of bodies that qualify as public authorities is rather short. Expanding opportunities to create leasehold stratas could contribute positively to housing affordability in British Columbia, but the legal rights and obligations of the parties need to be clarified.
Seniors First BC
A common complaint is about smoking by other strata residents, including marijuana smoke. Here is our information sheet about this: Second Hand Smoke In Your Strata.
The BC government recently revamped its resources for strata owners and managers with a new comprehensive website.
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Sections and Types
- Meetings and Voting
- Information and Record Keeping
- Bylaws and Rules
- Finances and Insurance
- Repairs and Maintenance
- Strata Legislation
- Strata Associations
- Strata Guides (Archived)
- Getting Legal Advice
- Stakeholder Resources and FAQs
Find it Fast Find it Fast, one clickable page listing all the strata housing topics.
Strata associations offer useful information for strata owners and strata council members.
- CHOA (Condominium Home Owners Association of BC)
- VISOA (Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association)
- CCI Vancouver Chapter (Canadian Condominium Institute)
Note – Strata Property Law is being reviewed by the BC Law Institute. They are examining the options for reform in the following of strata-property law:
(1) fundamental changes to a strata—with a priority focus on cancellation of a strata plan and dissolution of a strata corporation;
(2) complex stratas;
(3) leasehold stratas;
(4) common property;
(6) insurance; and,
(7) land-title issues.
The goal of the project is to make recommendations for reform, illustrated by draft legislation, to help in the development of the next generation of strata-property law in British Columbia. The report on phase 1 of the project is available here: Report on Strata Property Law: Phase One
Listed below are some websites with FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) about strata living in British Columbia:
- VISOA (the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association) is a non-profit organization of strata owners serving strata owners. It has a helpful website including a FAQ section.
- CHOA (the Condominium Home Owners’ Association) is a non-profit strata association with a very helpful website including indexed archives of hundreds of “Condo Smarts” newspaper columns written in reply to questions from strata owners and councils.
- The Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) is a regulatory agency of the provincial Ministry of Finance that handles some of the paperwork filed by owner developers of strata developments. FICOM has some strata related information and a page on strata FAQs.
- The Homeowner Protection Office has developed some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about managing strata repairs.
- The Strata Property Group at the Vancouver law firm Clark Wilson LLP has an extensive FAQ section.
- The Associated Property Management firm in Kelowna also publishes strata FAQs.
- Many strata residents and strata council members also find it useful to review Mike Mangan’s book “The Condominium Manual” written to explain BC strata law for the lay person.
The Law Society’s PLTC manual on real estate included information on the Strata Property Act. Real Estate